Uni’d Clothing: Jarrad Morris
The university entrepreneur on juggling work with home life and transforming student wardrobes
Company name: Uni’d Clothing Ltd. Website: www.unidclothing.com Founders: Jarrad Morris Age: 19 Based: Cardiff Staff Numbers: 6 Date started: August 2010 Turnover: £70,000 – £100,000 projected
Tell us what your business does.We provide an online shop for students, past and present, to purchase university clothing. This includes a range of branded items such as hoodies, t-shirts and joggers; as well as a society section where the customer can design and order their own garments online.
Where did the idea for your business come from?I already had a business supplying societies in university and after my first year in university I realised that a hoodie was an essential part of the average student’s wardrobe. I saw a massive opportunity here to sell them online. How did you know there was a market for it? What’s your USP (unique selling point)? Being in the university age group and constantly surrounded by our target customers in my daily activities, there was never any doubt that there was a market for it. Our main USP is the fact that we offer a wide range of products and colours – 51 products per university – which give our customers a much wider choice compared to those offered by any competitors.
What were you doing before starting up? Before starting up I had run various small ventures in my teens. While at college I designed and marketed a range of hoodies along with founding and co-editing a student magazine. I gained a place in Cardiff University where I began supplying garments on a larger scale to some of the biggest societies in UK universities.
What planning did you do before you started up? What advice did you seek?I carried out market research of the companies currently operating and we found they were not offering anything special to the university market. I then put together a plan and set out targets for the following three months. I sought advice from a highly experienced team of specialist marketing consultants regarding the online approach to retail and the best ways to drive traffic to the site.
How did you raise the money?Since I started to operate in the clothing market I have faced a few funding rejections and it definitely wasn’t easy. In the summer of last year, as a result of the continual exposure I had been pushing with my previous company and word of mouth, I received a phone call from an investor looking to invest in me and my ideas.
How did you find suppliers?Finding suppliers was hard in the early stages; being a small one-man-band in the early days, getting credit and bulk buying discounts became some of the hardest tasks. I have dealt in products that have been manufactured abroad; this was a completely different ball game. Having to explain and manage everything with a language barrier and time difference is a real hindrance on deadlines. I was lucky enough to take part in an organised trip run by the British Council to encourage trade between the UK and China. This allowed me to familiarise myself with the different ways of carrying out business and the practices involved. From this trip I was able to use my experience and contacts to tap in to a respected network of suppliers in many different sectors.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? Running your own business involves many challenges. We have had to manage cash flow very strictly to ensure that we make the most out of the budget we have and maximise the returns. The cost of marketing is probably the biggest challenge we have had to overcome; in a new age of digital marketing, the costs have sky rocketed, which means careful decisions have to be made regarding the most effective way to target customers.
Where is your business based? The business is based in Cardiff where we were able to integrate ourselves into a 5000 square foot office and production facility, provided by the investor. This means we can constantly monitor production as well as only being a stone’s throw away from the office of our primary suppliers.
How have you promoted your business? What has proved successful and what won’t you do again?We have promoted our business through the traditional routes of on the ground marketing with activities such as leafleting, sponsorships and traditional advertising. However, our greatest emphasis as a company is concerned with online and digital marketing. We spend a large portion of our time concentrating on social media along with search engine optimisation and paid ads.
How much do you charge? How did you decide this?To decide our price, we firstly looked at the market value of the product and then through a process of benchmarking and the true cost, we were able to decide on a price. We also decided that we would then add on a little extra for the excellent service that we provide our customers with.
What has your growth been like? Are you where your business plan said you’d be?Our growth has been dramatic. Since we established in the summer of 2010 we have become the UK’s largest online retailer of university branded clothing. We have a customer base broadening out to four major Europeans countries along with a continually growing customer base in the UK. With regards to the business plan, we are on track and happy with the progress the company is making and with the growth that it is achieving.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?Living away from home for university caused me to develop a certain degree of independence. I do work long hours sometimes, but my girlfriend has always been understanding and supportive and was even our highest selling rep in Cardiff at one point. My friends have been a great help with their support in marketing the business, and tapping in to their network of friends in other universities has helped the growth of the brand.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?Our greatest difficulty has been developing the network of reps that we now have. Attempting to find reps in 110 universities throughout the UK has been a big task. At present we have around 100 reps on the ground with a further network of 500 online reps at our disposal.
What was your first big breakthrough?The biggest breakthrough for us was having the pressure of turning around a complete e-commerce platform from start to finish in just over four weeks, ready to target the rush of freshers during the September period.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?Don’t be afraid to take risks, you will come up against hurdles but if it was that easy everyone would be doing it! Stay focused and set yourself targets – and then the sky’s the limit.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?We don’t have a specific exit plan, but as soon as we hit the £500,000 mark we’ll probably decide to sell-up and take some time off.